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Elastomeric materials are described as having non-linear, viscoelastic behaviour, this means that they exhibit elastic recovery, time dependent behaviour and the relationship between load and deflection is not linear.

Elastomers used in sealing are often described as compounds, meaning that they are a mixture of ingredients manufactured under specific conditions. A compound typically comprises:
  • Polymer backbone - a long chain of molecules made up of one or more monomeric units, this governs the basic thermal, chemical and physical properties of a compound. ISO and ASTM classifications define families of elastomer such as NBR, FKM etc.
  • Cross-link - polymer chains are tied together by cross links, short chains of molecules e.g. sulphur, to prevent chain slippage and create elastic behaviour. Different cross link systems will fundamentally change thermochemical or physical properties.
  • Fillers - organic or inorganic solid particles with specific shapes and chemistries that tailor physical properties such as tensile strength, hardness, elongation at break, modulus and compression-set
  • Other ingredients used to achieve specific manufacturing, application or cost requirements.

A typical HNBR 70 Shore A compound may have 20 ingredients and may contain only 30% polymer by weight. Therefore it is important not just to specify the family of polymer backbone and hardness, but to specify an individual compound/grade in order to achieve consistent performance.

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